Skip to main content

tv   Book TV  CSPAN  October 9, 2011 1:45am-3:00am EDT

1:45 am
concerned with the well-being of the people, but more concerned with their own power in their own wells. that is what is needed. no country, to my mind, canned come affluent rich with only the help from outside, even if that helps sometimes can bring important element and can be humane and soul for hunger like the world food program. but that coming up of the strong africa begins at a country like donna is good. a country like their days doing a very good job. some countries begin to
1:46 am
understand the way in which they could develop, but we have still a lot to learn about how to be usefully partners of africa and not normally what the chinese are doing at the present, which is buying land and that is dangerous for africa because land has to be used for agriculture and not for bioenergy. so the problem of africa is one of those that is giving me the most thought i traveled in africa and therefore man's it to your question is all too brief. we could have a long, long conversation about it sometime, but not today. [applause]
1:47 am
>> and now willard sterne randall recounts the life of american revolutionary war figure, even alan. he was remembered for his part in ticonderoga and time spent as a prisoner of war in england.s b this is about an hour. >> thank you for coming. many of us ever believed a bookseller in politics & prose and on behalf of her going yet i am pleased to but to welcome you when i'm really pleased to welcome for hy "ethan allen: his life and times". ethan allen was leader of the green mountain boys and is remembered for his attack on
1:48 am
fort ticonderoga in 1775 and time spent as prisoners of war in england but by chronicling his struggle to commander of the largest american paramilitary force on the eve of a revolution mr. willard sterne randall renders an accurate portrait of one of our least examined patriots. willard sterne randall has written biographies of thomas jefferson, benedict arnold at george washington and been nominated six times for the pulitzer prize and is a happily retired history professor. join me in welcoming him to politics and prose. [applause] >> thank you very much for coming out tonight in the thunder and lightning. my point of departures from the introduction. if we know anything about ethan
1:49 am
allen usually is only that he took fort ticonderoga wherever that is and however you spell it. his name is usually linked with the green mountain boys as if they were joined by a mystical chord. we know little else about him. that is why i wrote this book. i have lived 25 years in vermont where he has become a mythical figure. part of what i had to do is peeled away the layers of mythology and try to figure out what the real ethan allen was like. to vermont he is part paul bunyan and part davy crockett and two part jack daniel's. as soon as i said i was writing about ethan allen eyes are a gesture i had never seen before. ethan allen. that seems to be apart from bond
1:50 am
is proudest of. apparently they know little beyond that even in school. ethan allen among other things i found just to start out with a little summary, in addition to taking the most formidable force in british america was 89 men and without firing a shot, he was the first published american deist philosopher. he organized 29 communities to defend the new hampshire grants. they're still wasn't vermont. against competing claims of new york. preserving the homesteads until the revolution came around. he was a prolific author. i was surprised how much he wrote but better known as the
1:51 am
land speculator and the two things connected because ethan allen bought and sold land as cheaply as he could and sold in small parcels to hundreds and hundreds of frontier families but if he didn't have money to buy a piece of land he sold you a pamphlet. you got a few acres or bought it with a shilling. he really is a founding father of vermont. without him new york could not have been held at bay and neither could the british. by one means or another. he is also the reason why we have a prisoner of war policy stretching down to the present time. i will explain that more. because the case of ethan allen, prisoner of war set the precedent how prisoners are treated and diplomatic relations between warring governments in the civil war.
1:52 am
he had quite an impact and yet we know little of this. he wrote a narrative of his own captivity that went through eight editions in two years and enlivened the revolution by making it clear to flagging patriots that the real enemy was the loyalists more than the british forces. and that memoir that he wrote about his captivity went through 60 printings before the civil war and is still in print. there are very few other works that have lasted that well. how did he come about this robin hood who is characterized depending where you are, in new york he was a slaughter and a land grab. if you are in vermont or new hampshire or new england he is robin hood. there's a little bit of both.
1:53 am
he was born in connecticut in 1738 when it was the frontier. hard to imagine today. one of eight children. the town was founded by his grandfather who took over when her husband didn't have the turf to keep the farm going. he was born to perfect parents for the times. joseph and mary. and their children had biblical names. you can trace the changes in the religious views of people on the frontier by going through the names of those children. ethan means strong in hebrew and the first six children have old testament names. last two after the family backslid away from puritanism into anglican is lydia. he was born on the front here but not in a hunt for a shack.
1:54 am
a solid home in whingefield. he might have stayed there and never gone to vermont except for something called the great awakening which i think was really the seat time of the american revolution. the first time large numbers of people turned out for a mass meetings to hear someone speak. until then mostly they gaudy enough of speaking in three hours sermons at the meeting house but in the 1730s and 40s missionaries came from england. anglicans from the holy club of oxford university. george whitefield and lesley brothers and every year they preach down the length of the british colony's from newport, road by the to savannah. the crowds were enormous for the times. benjamin franklin was the first to verify how large the crowd were when whitfield came through philadelphia.
1:55 am
franklin invented a way -- a pretty good one. he walked around the edges and figured out how many -- calculated how many square feet the average person took up and came to the conclusion there but 25,000 people in the audience. without a microphone george whitefield could reach all of them. he traveled along with two horses. one for himself and one for his portable pulpit from town to town and wherever he went, young people, for people who never felt at home in puritan meeting houses turned out. the great awakening produced a schism in new england and 300 new separatist churches which was too much for ethan allen's father joseph. he was born a proud puritan. they called themselves saints much as evangelicals still do today. instead of staying there being
1:56 am
part of the great awakening he led 19 families into the wilderness of northwestern connecticut which is a funny thing to say. in a valley he started a new town called cornwall. he was town moderator, selectmen, tax collector, all of those jobs until enough people came along. the problem for ethan allen was you didn't build a school in a new community until there were 50 families. why that number? we have this old say and when i was growing up. we were told an idle mind is the devil's workshop. massachusetts had passed a law in 1648 called the old builder sanctum law. when a community reached a population of 50 families they had to build a school house. ethan allen was born too soon. his younger brother actually got to go to primary school.
1:57 am
ethan allen never went to formal school. what he learned in cornwall from his father was how you start a community. from the ground up and from the ground down because when people moved on to the frontier the first year they had to clear enough land to plant two acres. that was the formula. one to plant wheat for brad, one for corn for the livestock. for the most viable thing they had was the livestock and they build a renewed cabinet working in teams of people, logs of the same diameter and weighing for, 1-1/2 story cabin that first. a loft for people in the winter and downstairs for the livestock. no problem with enough heat. by the second year you attach a shed or build separate farms. that is how the community grew, slowly.
1:58 am
in the same way. we have an idea of frontier people going off on their own. is not true. we have a communal frontier. communities moved. that was the pattern all across the country. the other thing that became a pattern across the country was what they did to the landscape when they settled a new community. basically they cut down the hardwood. there was a hardwood forest from nova scotia to minnesota when the first american immigrants arrived. that would be eventually flattened, cut down. were they terrible people? trying to destroy their environment? no. they had no money. if you cut down one water elm and trimmed the top growth and side branches and twigs and burned it you could produce
1:59 am
pot-which you then leached down until you for a rock crystal like rock candy and those crystals could then be sold for cash to the english and needed it to start the industrial revolution for their new textile industry to make sulfuric acid. the formula i have found was one large elm tree produced enough cash to buy two acres of land. the front your people would cut down enough timber to by a little more land and cut down more timber to buy a little more land. you get the picture. they used the trunks of the trees for fencing to build houses. eventually to build ships and rafts. but this was the pattern. people with no money could have a down payment and expand as their families expanded because many of these had eight to ten
2:00 am
children and their problem was they all survived. so ethan allen grew up learning from his father how to start a community but learning to hunt as well. there were mohawk indians in the area so he learned to live in the and style. how to hunt indian style and he turned into a robust outgoing young man. he was six feet tall at time when the average american male was about 5 foot 6. how do we know the size? when the french joined the revolution and sent their uniforms they send the right size. we can see the size of the average american. ethan allen was taller from hard farm work which i did for a few years as a young fellow. he learned to carry a great deal of weight to do a lot of work. that became legendary. part of the myth of ethan allen that he could take a 100 lb sack
2:01 am
of corn in his teeth and sling it over his shoulder. he would not have many teeth if he had done that. i know what 50 pounds funds like. never 100. he grew up on a farm. when he was 16 his father decided he needed a better education than he could get learning how to read and write and do psalm's from his mother because women did the education when the men did the farm work and hunting. women were literate. even though we may not have evidence of much of it puritan women were trained to keep records of their spiritual feelings in diaries and made sure their children to the bible inside and out. ethan allen's father took him to solve very liberal connecticut for arthur lee. who was a great awakening
2:02 am
preacher but blake most clergy had to support themselves by taking in boarding students. ..
2:03 am
he married a woman a ears older than he was. it was not a flaming romance. it is just that he had carried the corn insects on a course to her father's smell in the next town and it took all day to get the milling done, so she fixed him something to eat and they got to know each other pretty well.
2:04 am
he's been a spent a little more time as years went by. everybody knew that she was ethan allen's girl. nobody else apparently dated her, and he didn't date anybody else because they were all relatives. there wasn't much of a selection. but he did marry at age 26, and moved and set up his first business. he founded the forbes and allen iron foundry, the oldest in connecticut. it went on right to the revolution and would produce cannons for the american revolution. he got a little distracted from his business, which was flourishing. when he met a young doctor in town who was the deist and they took to spending long evenings and afternoons studying deist writings from england and having a little bit of fun with the inconsistencies of the bible,
2:05 am
which was alright as long as they kept it to themselves. but, as they read more of the deist writings they began to think more that reason was more important than scripture and reason told ethan allen that some of the things the town leaders were doing made no sense. for example every year smallpox swept through the british colonies. every 30 years there was a great epidemic that hits boston. people left boston, moved up and down the coast and started to go into the frontier and move further and further west because of those epidemics. when reason one reason is continued was because inoculation was illegal in every british colony. now it wasn't that people hadn't done it successfully somewhere else. the turks had done it successfully. and as early as 1715 lady ashley wortley montague had written
2:06 am
about this and members of the royal society of england had spread those writings to america but there was so much superstition wrapped up in the intervening anyway against what was considered god's will that the smallpox epidemics went on. even allen thought something had to be done about this and he did it in what became his quintessential way. in front of the town meetinghouse on sunday, as everyone poured out of the service, he had himself inoculated by dr. young. how they did it? a needle and thread that had been passed through a sewer of somebody with smallpox was then passed through his arm, giving him a mild dose of smallpox. well, he was arrested, not for inoculation but he does when one of the select -- his former teacher and magistrate, reverend lee, accosted him for it, he managed to put beelzebub and god
2:07 am
in the same sentence, so he was tried for blasphemy. in court he didn't make it any better in the working man in the farmers of the town crowded in and they loved ethan allen a little too much for the magistrate so he was convicted and fined a maximum fine of 10 shillings. it doesn't sound like much but if you had two convictions in any town, you were run out of town. you and your family had to leave and not come back. they got him on the second offense. the second offense, somebody's hog got out and into ethan allen's garden and he arrested the hogg. now he didn't have the right to do that. there was a -- who was supposed to return the hogg to the owner or turn it into pork chops, but ethan allen had broken the law by violating the covenant of the hogg brief who then brought charges against him and he was convicted again.
2:08 am
he had to leave and many had to leave connecticut. so we went right to the frame. he went to northampton massachusetts which was already a battleground because the leading theologian in the great awakening, jonathan edwards, had been run out of that town because he had accused young men of getting it look belonging to a midwife and passing it around to the girls, and he named names from the pulpit. you just didn't do that. jonathan edwards went off to the wilderness and became president of princeton which were about the same thing at the time. i can say it, wasn't there. and ethan allen went there and got in trouble right away. he opened a lead mine. people thought at the time that where there was led there were silver and gold. there wasn't. and he swore a lot with his workers. as people do in the minds. and the clergy kept inspecting and finally brought him up on
2:09 am
charges again of profanity this time. so he was fined and convicted. he sold his interest in the lead mine. he was losing interest in business, but when the fellow who bought the mine showed up in settlement without the money ethan allen stripped to the waist and thrashed the fellow. he was arrested again. [laughter] but then the fellow left town and got his friends to come back and ethan allen this time strips to the waist and got out his bullwhip and there was another altercation in this time ethan allen was run out of northampton and out of massachusetts. but then where do you go? he had a family. he left his wife and children with his younger brother who was sort of the tamest one of the klan, he-man allen who ran a prosperous general store in the ethan allen for the next four winters wind up into this now and tea lands that the french had left and it was unpopulated
2:10 am
except for indian hunters. ethan allen became a professional hunter for 40 years and literally ran with the indians. that is not a figure of speech. his brother ira lader road as iraq tempted many things -- you attempted a biography of ethan and never finished it. he depicted even allen would run alongside a herd of deer. indian style they waited for a full moon and in the snow there was a crust of snow perfect for snowshoeing but not perfect for the deer. they would run alongside the deer and ethan allen would shoot one, take his hat and put it on the carcass so the scavengers wouldn't touch it because of its sense. run along and shoot another one, take off his coat, put it on the deer, shoot another one, take off his tunic and put it on then the deer. you get the picture. before he was through he was you
2:11 am
could save up naked. but what he did was take the skin of the last year he shot and put it on himself while he went back and dressed again. the hides every spring were sent by canoe down to salisbury, where the younger brothers had set up a tannery and made buckskin coveralls, very prosperous business on the frontier. even jefferson pulled on buckskins over his go to meeting suit for years. you had to have locks can. so the family was prospering. while ethan allen was hunting, he was also exploring and finding the very best lands and getting the idea that he would move his family and, all of this family, up into the valley of vermont which he did in 1770. he went and bought his first land, 1000 acres for the equivalent of 1000 of our dollars, 500 acres, 500 in new
2:12 am
haven which is just above middlebury. and he had the speculative love. other members of the family followed him. some of his neighbors had seen vermont during the french indian wars. colonel thomas chittenden head of the militia in litchfield county connecticut decided to move with his clan into the one iski river valley up near burlington vermont. now, to do this ethan allen became a land speculator and investor. at first it was very small pieces of land. his timing could not have been worse. at exactly that time in 1770 the old problem of who owns the land flared. new hampshire's royal governor then bennie wentworth had sold charters for 170 townships in new hampshire and vermont.
2:13 am
now who bought the charters? i did a little digging. for example williston vermont is named after sam willis, who is a merchant and hempstead long island who made a lot of money from the british supplied during the french and indian wars and like his merchant friends who wanted to lay some of it off and land in vermont. so willis and his friends came up with 40 shillings in silver and atlanta governor wentworth for granting the papers to set up a township five miles by five miles. will you get to see the numbers. any wentworth in 15 years pocketed $3 million in fees just from those lands charters. only to be outdone by new york when new york said wait a minute, our charter says everything between lake champlain and the connecticut river is part of new york, so new new new york governors began counter claiming and insisted that the settlers by the land a
2:14 am
second time. the speculators and the settlers who had begun to trickle in -- there were only about 1500 people living in vermont by 1770 -- but those people wanted to learn the land. they worked very hard and it took whatever they had. ethan allen did as a speculator come as a shareholder among these people said, we should resist and he was chosen at a stockholders meeting, we recall that today and sharon connecticut, to hire the best lawyer in new england and go to albany new york, the capital of -- not the capital but where the supreme court of new york was in the supreme court of judiciary and resist the attempts of new york to sell this land again. knee while new york had sent the albany county sheriff and 300 men to survey and sees the farms of settlers in the bennington area who wouldn't budge. they stood with their guns at their sides in the fields until
2:15 am
the szypula posse went away. the problem for your quest most of the posse were dutch and warned about to cooperate. land riots had already been taking place in new york at this time. ethan allen is the chosen emissary went before the supreme court and albanian was basic we laughed out of course. he wrote about it. he began writing about the rights and the claims of the settlers. he described the grandeur of these colonial members of the court with her long legs and their beautiful robes in the middle of the wilderness. what he also knew was that the chief counsel for the royal province of new york on 60,000 acres of vermont land. the chief judge owned 170,000 acres or was claiming to own in vermont. they all had conflicts of interest. so allen went back to bennington
2:16 am
and the leaders of the 29 settlements got together in a meeting at the catamount tavern which became the unofficial capital of vermont tours and they decided to form a militia with captains in each town and the captain selected ethan allen as colonel, commandant and he was paid a salary. so he is one of the first paid american rebels. for four years, the green mountain boys held off the new york sheriffs and drove out and he would be new york settlers. now how they did it today, you might not approve of completely. you could call it vigilante is the more he could call it terrorism. it depended. the first time they visited you, if you try to start a farm within new york deed, they took your fences down at night. and the livestock just one into your garden and into your fields. that would be enough for most people to say this is an going
2:17 am
to work. if it didn't do the job, the next time they came and they take took your barno part. and if you are still there, they took the roof off of your house. the true the line it earning. i found no evidence that they ever set fire but every time they did it, more would be new york settlers went back to albany and swore out affidavits so there is a vast record of these atrocities or defense movements, however you want to characterize them, the showing of these claims so that in four years as allen and the green mountain boys successfully held off new yorkers as he called them, after four years ethan allen and his officers were denominated outlaws. the new york eventual assembly passed a law putting a price on allen's head of a 100-pound sterling which was an awful lot of money at the time and 50 on
2:18 am
each of his cabinet. allen's response was to put a price on the head of the attorney general of new york, should he dare to come into vermont territory. but if he had been caught at any time he could have been hanged without a trial, summarily executed. it is a very serious thing. luckily for ethan allen the american revolution came along and what they mean by that is, he was the first to come up with the idea that lake champlain was the key to the defense of new england and the other colonies, and so when word came of lexington and concord, ethan allen sent a letter to all of her with walcott of the committee of correspondence of connecticut in which he proposed seizing the canon on lake champlain and then leading an invasion of canada before the british could reinforce from
2:19 am
england. and he was commissioned a connecticut kernel and a green mountain boys were pressed into service. so he organized an expedition against ticonderoga and what he didn't know at the same time benedict arnold, a wealthy smuggler and merchants from norwich connecticut who had formed his own company of soldiers and outfitted them and put them all in bright red uniforms had heard of lexington and marched with his men, some of them yale students, toward boston to volunteer for the fight there and arnold was given the commission by massachusetts that you have both of them in a foot race to get to ticonderoga and they arrived basically a few days apart. arnold showed up all spit and polish in the vermont fellows didn't want anything to do with him. they turn their guns over over their shoulders which is a sign they were not going to fight. they drifted off to a field
2:20 am
while allen and arnold negotiated. arnold had shown up without even a weapon, he was so full of enthusiasm. he had also given the game away to the british by sending a message through albany saying he was coming and please send supplies etc.. that they worked out of negotiations in negotiations so that they became commandant and at 4:00 in the morning of may 10, 1775 after a stormy night on lake champlain, they manage to get 89 of the 2000 green mountain boys that they had promised to muster, 89 across the lake and attacked fort ticonderoga. how did they know where to go and what to do? allen had sent to spy sand, hunters with long beards, to the fort barber for a haircut and they figured out the lay of the land. it was peacetime to those garrisons. they hadn't heard of lexington are concord. a british letter had to go to
2:21 am
halifax, québec, montreal and st. john and then down lake champlain to get to ticonderoga. paul revere in 30 of his writers were a little more efficient, all of new england and what is going on. so allen and arnold stormed the ford. they took everyone prisoner. no one was hurt. no one was killed. they found 90 gallons of rum that belong to the commandant. they had a bit of a party. ethan allen wrote out a chip that he would pay the commandant at some future time, and sent off 85 reznor's and 60 women and children to connecticut. now, part of what i have had to do was sort of the bugs that attack. one of the most famous lines in early american history is what ethan allen supposedly said to the commandant at ticonderoga comment he wrote the line himself several years later. i guess he figured he couldn't
2:22 am
get the real thing for the printer but what became famous as when the commandant said, right whose authority do you demand this where ethan allen supposedly said come in the name of jehovah and the continental congress. but according to a young man who was there and the british next to the commandant in his report, what he really said was, but there you old rat, which sounds a little bit more believable. [laughter] well, it didn't go down well with some of the vermonters. they were afraid that the british would counterattack, and allen actually was stripped of his command shortly after this by the town elders of the vermont settlements. he had been commissioned a colonel by the continental congress after visiting independence hall in making a wonderful speech. but that didn't carry much weight. in new york especially oren settlements. so rather than stay out of the fight, he became a scout and he
2:23 am
went into canada to raise french-canadian militia and to spy out the defenses. now, we say into canada, we are talking about québec province, which was huge, but it was defended by only 600 redcoats, 300 of those regulars were tied down on the border at fort st. john and that man's montréal" that only have the other 300. what allen did not know is that the mohawk nation under orders from the iroquois six nations joined the british side, which they had never left. we don't know our history of the indians and the british well enough to know that they were british citizens from 1715 on. there was never a question which side they were going to be on. so allen's idea was to move quickly. it was also the idea of george washington who sent benedict arnold with 1000 men to attack
2:24 am
québec at the same time ethan allen decided without george washington's approval to attack montréal. allen was only able to raise 134 men, paying some french 1p a day which was more cash than they usually had her go by, the french canadians, many were unhappy with the british, so allen miscalculated and thought he would have much more support from the french-canadians. he also thought he would have more support from the americans. his own cousin, the new commander of the green mountain boys, did not show up as he expected with a mountain boys, nor did any of the other americans. so basically ethan allen crossed the st. lawrence river at night trying to do for ticonderoga again and he ran into a british garrison under a strong commander, sir guy carleton, with 134 trains troops and in 300 mohawk warriors. it was over in about two hours
2:25 am
and 45 minutes of wasting ammunition as ethan allen would point out. as they shot at each other range until the indians worked around behind colin and the others, and allen had to surrender. that begins i think one of the most important things that most vermonters and most americans don't know about, the saga of ethan allen. he was captured and told he would be sent to england and tried for treason and hanged, drawn and bordered which is the regular way of carrying out a sentence of death. so he and the others were put in chains in the hold of a ship in the st. lawrence and they could hear the guns of the americans getting closer and closer, arriving just a little too late to montréal as the ship sailed toward england. so you have 34 men in the cage and vile conditions crossing the atlantic in chains in the wintertime and wintertime and none of them died.
2:26 am
these were tough people. allen basically got so enraged at his treatment at one point that he took his manacles and bit through the chain of soft iron, so for the rest of his life he had a little bit of a gap in his smile, and he was very proud to show it off. when he reached england, to his amazement, there was a crowd waiting very enthusiastic crowd because his fame for taking the kingsport which the british had not been able to take from the french and the french and indian wars, had gone ahead of him so i crowd was waiting as he was marched up the long walk to pendant is castle, a british castle built by henry viii, where he was to be held. while the british tried to figure out what to do with him. this was a new problem. it should have been a question. they were rebels. they should have been hanged vets carlton had decided they would be tried in england. and so i was able to find a
2:27 am
british cabinet ministry meeting at night in the home of one of the ministers in which they decided the best thing they could do was get ethan allen the heck out of england before he stirred up any more popular support, because in parliament, john wilkes and pro-americans were working up enough votes to get a writ of habeas corpus to get the prisoners tried and civilian prisoners instead of as traders. so ethan allen would spend much of the next few years getting the heck out of there. the british put them on a ship to ireland to join the convoy that was attacking charleston. in court, and they cove of cork the irish road out in open boats bringing presents of meat and fruit and beautiful cloth and a dagger and cash. ethan allen managed to keep the cloth, the cash and a dagger.
2:28 am
the british ship ships captain ada meet and drank the -- from ireland the convoy went to the carolinas by way of bermuda. ethan allen was allowed to come up and walk the deck for a few minutes each day. from there he was taken to halifax where he was put in jail and help the others to escape. he refused to escape. he wanted to be traded as an officer and a gentleman for an officer of equal rank. so it became very ill in the jail in halifax. eventually he was shipped to manhattan after the british had captured new york where he was put on parole and then he had to be in by dark and stay in the township where he was held and not speak against the british. and then he and 300 other officers were sent to brooklyn, which was farmland at the time and what is now the new lots of boy stop in east brooklyn, ethan allen was held a prisoner.
2:29 am
he wasn't really held. he wandered to a tavern each day where he didn't have much money to buy anything and he lived on clams because that is what the farmers provided for the $2 a month rent that he had to pay as a prisoner. it was too much for him. he broke his parole and across the manhattan and he saw the horrible conditions of other prisoners. sum 10,000 americans died in prison ships in wall about a off brooklyn, because of that same decision of those british ministers. what they had decided was habeas corpus could not be served on a ship and so the fate of american prisoners was to be held on ships where virtually all of them died in the course of the war. if you think about it, think about where we have prisoners right now, it is a naval base. you have to wonder if there is in some legacy of that decision of the british in 1775. well, ethan allen couldn't keep his mouth shut in long island
2:30 am
either, and he complained bitterly about the prisoners and the treatment by the british and this time he was arrested and taken to the provost jail, the worst jail in british hands in new york city and put in solitary confinement. and he was held in the provost jail for the rest of the 34 months that he spends as a british prisoner. eventually, general washington was able to set up an agreement to trade with the british commanders, prisoner for prisoner. we had more than they did. so, from the very beginning we took more prisoners than they did and we have more leverage in exchange, and so in may of 1778, ethan allen was exchanged for a full colonel of the british regiment who was a member of parliament, one of the proudest members -- moments of his life. and he was led by a calvary escort from elizabethtown new jersey to valley forge, where he was ushered into the company of
2:31 am
george washington and george washington gave him a review of honor and after allen went home to vermont washington wrote this to the president of congress, henry lawrence. his fortitude and firmness seems to have placed them out of reach of misfortune. there is an in him an original something that commands admiration and his long captivity and sufferings have only served to increase his characteristic enthusiasm and zeal. so that is washington's assessment and very much of the other revolutionary leaders. the first thing ethan allen did when he got back to vermont, while not the first thing he did. he learned that his brother came and died a week before only looking out the window waiting to see if ethan were coming down the road yet. he had lost his only son. his wife was dying of tuberculosis. a daughter was dying of tb. tv was sweeping the impoverished frontier at the time.
2:32 am
and what he did to show his bitterness to the idea that other americans were fighting against the revolutionaries is hang a loyalist as soon as he got back to vermont. he was made the district attorney and had the fellow hanged. who basically was stealing horses and providing them to the british. the rest of of the revolutionary war period, he was sick. he was weakened by his captivity. he never held an elective office because he refused to take an oath. he thought that the oaths were puritan and by this time he was a confirmed deist. now this brings up the question, what is a confirmed deist? do they confirm? no. they believe that god was the author of a perfect universe that created everything at once and they didn't need anybody to fix it.
2:33 am
clergy, miracles, bibles, mysteries. only reason. so, he ran everything through that filter from the time of his captivity. he became very philosophical during those long days and confinement. he started to sign his letters -- you started to sign his letters as -- i am losing it but basically the hick philosopher. use various forms of this. and vermont for five years, before the revolution ended, he confiscated loyalist properties, put a little money in his pocket from each one and kept the family going that way but the confiscation of loyalist lands paid for their vermont troops in the american revolution and for the defense at home. so, part of ethan allen's legacy which makes them still very popular in vermont is vermonters had no debt when the revolution
2:34 am
was over and everybody else did, and wanted vermont to pay its share of it. ethan allen actually negotiated with the british secretly on and off for three years but from all i can find from studying those papers, which have alluded a lot of historians because the original american records were destroyed in a warehouse in albany when it burned exactly 100 years ago but i was able to use the wonderful digitalization of records of the canadians. they are way ahead of us, and preserving their materials. and you can find the correspondents, the correspondence relating to ethan allen's negotiations with governor haldeman, the military governor of canada. you can find them digitalized in canada. you can find the originals in the british library. and after studying them, i found that even the slightest word change can make a terrific difference in interpretation we
2:35 am
get of our historical figures. for example, 1,001,780, the loyalist colonel robinson from new york sent a messenger through to ethan allen and arlington vermont and the letter began, we are well aware of your khmer coal schemes, and because there was a careless transcript made sometime in the 1920s, that became we are well aware of your commercial schemes, so many historians have believed that ethan allen was only in it for the money and was only in it double dealing with the british and the haldeman negotiations. once i found that, it took a lot longer studying the records. that is why the book took six years. but what i came away with was the idea of a man who was taking his philosophy and putting it into action which is a dangerous
2:36 am
thing which we have seen in the 20th century. we put our philosophies in the corners of our universities and very rarely let them make policies. but ethan allen put into action is deism and his philosophy that death was a very natural thing not to be feared, but you must resist the enemy, you must be brave. the men love to jump on tree stumps and harangue a crowd, and he was often writes for doing it. for example to young girls got lost in the woods one day and the 1780s, for instance years old and when they didn't show up by nightfall, their father went next door to ethan allen's farm and told him. he organized a search party and for three days and nights they searched and men came from new york to join the search and they couldn't find the girls. on the third day there were about to give up, and ethan allen jumped on this tree stump and said, your parents, how
2:37 am
would you feel? could you stop and leave them out there? don't be afraid of the bears and the wolves. you have killed them all. there are no snakes. you have eaten them. so the search parties went out again and a few hours later, two hours later the girls were found asleep on a rock where they had been kept alive eating berries, which is why they had been there in the first place. but it is that kind of thing that is also history. what i've done is go back and look at the town histories, many of them compiled town by town by abby hemingway in the 1860s and 70s, written by the local historians and you get quite a good picture. when the revolution was over the british finally realize that they have been duped, that vermont never had intended its leaders had kept secret what they were doing and never had intended to rejoin the british empire. washington wasn't even sure. he sent a spy and to find out what ethan allen was doing but
2:38 am
it was the same spy that ethan allen sent into ticonderoga so that didn't work. when the revolution was over, ethan allen remarried his wife -- you's wife died of tb. he married a much younger woman, 26 years old. she was the illegitimate daughter of a swiss engineer in the british army raised by an aunt and that and married a loyalist who had committed suicide, but left 40,000 acres of land in the connecticut valley so she and her hands were there trying to see if they could sell any of this land. nobody had any money at the end of the revolution and ethan allen met her in a boarding house run by the chief justice of vermont. he needed a source of income. he proposed to her right away. he would not take an oath of marriage, but he married anyway. they rode off in the wintertime and back to bennington where ethan allen was hard at work writing the most impenetrable
2:39 am
document i have ever seen, 500 some pages called reason, the only oracle of man. he needed an editor. he never had one. he apparently dictated all of it. they didn't have spell check so he must have had an illiterate clerks, probably a young college graduate who needed some money. but he took the deistic writings that he had started bachan salus barry connecticut with arthur young, the young doctor and then he got that manuscript from the widow of arthur young who had died in the field hospital trying to help the troops of the revolution and he sat in bennington writing this frontal attack on puritans -- puritanism. in the house he was right next door to the puritan church of so if you go to bennington you won't find a house. they tore it down and put a monument to a more faithful historian in his place. but he finished reason, the only oracle. he sold all the lady could.
2:40 am
be dissolved the land company that the family had used all through the period period before the war. he held onto 1500 acres in the one ascii river valley and that is where his homestead has been found and reconstructed. a wonderful land on the one ascii river. but he finished his book and he had 1800 copies printed at his own expense. only 200 were circulated before the rest were mysteriously burned. some people in town say it was god's will and the lightning did it. other people and towns they know it was the printer. he was scared to death that he would be run out of town too but they burned so only 200 copies circulated. when they went to members of congress they went to governors and they went to paris where ethan allen was a corresponding with the man who wrote the famous letters of the american farmer. he saw the work of ethan allen
2:41 am
just before the french revolution so this has been a wonderful quest for me to see how this man has gone beyond the walls of fort ticonderoga. he ended up living the personification of kind deed, tending his garden on a small piece of land, naming this -- one of the three children from that second marriage joseph both fair allen, and he prospered as a a farmer as much as he could, raising cattle, at trading them to the british. vermont had free trade when the rest of the country couldn't, when the revolution is over. vermont did not become a state until 1791 after ethan allen died. and his death came about because there was a drought in 1788 and 89, the exact same drought that was causing starvation in the streets of paris and i think helps touch of the french revolution, but on february 10,
2:42 am
1789 ethan allen and one of his two hired men, a freed lack man named newport cross the ice to get a load of hay from a cousin on one of the islands in lake champlain. now, that was the hardest thing for me to find out the name of this man. he was invisible to history but i started studying voluminous amounts of town newspaper records and i actually found an article in 1943 that identified the farmhand of ethan allen. the name had been passed down among local people. the other farmhand he had had and partially scalped in the attack on montréal and was so poor that somebody tried to sue him and take his gun away and it was sold for the money on the frontier and ethan allen slipped into court and saved him as well. but that night they had a party. the hero islands in lake champlain, given to the heroes
2:43 am
of ticonderoga by the vermont legislature and the green mountain boys when they heard ethan was coming poured into south hero to the tavern and they had a party. early next morning as ethan allen and newport cross the ice, newport noticed that something was wrong. ethan allen had stopped talking. he had slumped over. so i think it is a beautiful ending for this story because here in this first american state created without -- ethan allen died in the arms of a freed slave. i can't make up something like that. it was the largest funeral that had taken place in america until that time, 10,000 people went through the ice and snow to the home of younger brother ira allen on the winooksi river to see ethan allen before he was buried on a hilltop overlooking
2:44 am
the winooksi river. he is buried somewhere there. souvenir hunters have stolen everything. we don't know the exact spot so there is no monument at the great but there is a 40-foot column with a ridiculous figure on it that is supposed to look a lot like ethan allen and one of the problems i had with this book is what did he look like? painters could make a living on the frontier unless they were doing wainscoting, so there were no images from life by what i discovered, the families of the founding fathers there were doing a few generations later comity were getting together for the fourth of july and they were talking about what the ancestors look like. something like what you would do to a police artist basically and so the first governor of vermont, there was no portrait, thomas chittenden but if you've seen one chittenden you've seen them all. there are several in vermont, same bushy eyebrows etc.. ethan allen was able to verify somewhat what he looked like because jpmorgan, was buying everything he could about that
2:45 am
period, bought etchings of revolutionary officers and they are held in the morgan library, and they are there is an image of ethan allen, which matches almost exactly the image in the first really good biography of ethan allen done by john powell in 1929. it is not this. it is not this. this is the statue given to vermont, vermont place at statuary hall here in the nation's capital in the 1870s. each day got one in vermont got ethan allen where he looks remarkably like marlon brando playing napoleon. [laughter] everything is wrong about it. it is a revolutionary had with a french revolutionary case. the rest of it i think is right, but that is not ethan allen. the family actually came up with a composite sketch of him which is in the book. this is the first illustrated biography of ethan allen.
2:46 am
i went to great pains to come up with pictures of the different versions of him, but there was a composite describing what he looks like at the end of his captivity as a prisoner of war, and they think that is the closest because i have seen other allen's including his sixth grandson who help me start this work by giving me all the ethan allen books everybody ever printed and he is a dead ringer for this fellow who was a prisoner of war. so, that is the story of ethan allen. why don't we know more about it? well because he took on the clergy and they lived after he died. one missionary from new haven came up and literally stomped on ethan allen's grave. timothy dwight, the president of yale university, said on february 12, ethan allen, the general from vermont and great blasphemer, died and he resides in hell where he looks up
2:47 am
forever toward heaven from the flames. you get the idea of. and that went from pulpit to pulpit to pulpit to pulpit until ethan allen's memory went along with it. it was revived in the civil war when the green mountain boys swarmed into uniform to fight it gettysburg and cold harbor etc.. more vermonters per capita five and died on the union side then in any other northern state, and that is also the legacy of ethan allen. and the planes that fly patrol over new york city since 9/11 are the green mountain boys of the aircard of vermont. his legacy is a state with dissent. never really agreeing even among its congressional delegation. never agreeing from the west side of the mountains to the east side of the mountains. but it has a strong reputation for diversity and dissent. but most of all the legacy of ethan allen, since this time for
2:48 am
people went to start over, to start again. thank you. [applause] this is where i usually say fire at will. >> we have a brief amount of time for one or two questions. >> in a review of your book references made to his being an advocate of separation of church and state. can you comment further on that? >> well, his attack on the established church of new england and his book reason, the only oracle, is just that. he doesn't think that you should have a puritan hierarchy in vermont or new england. he was speaking mostly to new england. he did not use the word separation of church and state are go that phrase was coined by thomas jefferson in a letter to the secretary of the navy during a bitter re-election campaign in
2:49 am
1803 that there should be a wall of separation. but jefferson's only book aligns very well on his views along with ethan allen's only book in both of them firmly believe that there had to be separation between church and state and indeed in vermont by law and in a new community, the school had to be built before a church could be built. and that is still the case, so that is some proof of it. sir. >> i'm from arlington vermont and they think ethan allen's first wife is probably buried right next to st. james church there. >> yes. yes, but arlington is one of the towns that he beat up the most so it is ironic that she would die and be buried there because it was mostly loyalists. >> growing up we all knew that down toward west towards the west arlington is tory hollow. it was still called tory hollow in the 1940s. >> tory is not a nice word.
2:50 am
>> hi. i am from vermont, and i have always held myself a green mountain girl and we used to dress up in costumes, and i talked about ethan and ezra and ira having meetings at the eagle tavern. it was very much a part of our lives. my dad was a history professor at green mountain, and the historic markers around vermont. and it is wonderful to hear your research. >> nobody ever called them by their last names. it is that personal,, ethan and ira. >> no and we used to pretend we were running with the indians in the woods. [laughter] >> thank you very much for coming. [applause]
2:51 am
2:52 am
2:53 am
2:54 am
2:55 am
2:56 am
2:57 am
2:58 am
2:59 am


info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on